About the SHTP Project: This Shipshape Heritage Training Partnership (SHTP) project is managed by NHS-UK and funded by a £261,100 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund Skills for the Future programme. It provides ten 12-month training placements at five partner sites offering on-board specialist training to ensure the significance of the various historic vessels and the ability to operate them safely and effectively is kept alive. The trainees will also undertake a tailored course in historic vessel maintenance at the International Boatbuilding Training College and an interpretation placement at the Scottish Fisheries Museum. A skills mapping exercise will provide template training models for the wider sector and an assessment framework for seamanship skills will be developed as a project legacy.

Shipshape Thames Estuary hosts one of the five vessel partner organisations in the form of the Sea-change Sailing Trust, Essex.  The Trust provides residential opportunities for young people and vulnerable adults to learn and develop in a unique environment. Operating principally from the Thames Estuary and working intensively with disadvantaged young people, young offenders, those experiencing social exclusion, with special needs, challenged by traditional educational settings or considering a maritime career.

Working from a historic Thames barge, the trainees will undertake the following:

  • Sail on board two ships chartered by the Trust - Reminder is one of the last steel-hulled Thames spritsail barges and Cambria is a wooden Thames sailing barge
  • Learn traditional seamanship and deck work on board sprit-rigged vessels including: handling the rig safely and setting sails for optimum performance; understanding the physics of the rig, boatwork, steering, ropework; and safety on traditional vessels
  • Undertake specialist maintenance tasks on the two barges such as rigging repairs, ropework, painting, varnishing, basic sail repairs or joinery, engine maintenance etc.
  • Undertake evening and weekend sailing with members of the local Old Gaffers Association
  • Work with charter groups including disadvantaged young people, young offenders, those experiencing social exclusion or those with special needs, learning how to communicate effectively with them and ensure their safety on board.

March 2015: Update

After completing the SHTP course with the Sea-Change Sailing Trust, Tom Cook decided that his next career move lay in learning more about traditional rigging techniques.  He has subsequently been successful in gaining employment with the specialist rigging company, TS Rigging at Maldon.

August 2014: Update

This month, Tom has spent most of his time on SB Cambria, sailing from Pin Mill after a day's worth of scrubbing off on the barge blocks by the hard.  He sailed to Great Yarmouth which is outside the normal cruising grounds of barges and once there was occupied with the de-rigging and lowering down of the mizzen and bowsprit.

He then embarked upon a program of rigging maintenance that involved replacing and dressing servings, whipping, splicing and seizing. The barge was then towed up through Haven Bridge and Breydon bridge, crossing Breydon water and passing through Reedham swing bridge, mooring up at Reedham ferry.

After a couple of days there, the Main mast was lowered onto its prop in preparation for being towed up to Norwich in the early hours. Once moored in Norwich, the crew prepared for open days and public visits for a couple of days.

During the passage to and from Maldon, Tom was given the opportunity to stand watches against the skipper and put into practice some new skills.  Once back in Maldon, Tom went on week's charter encompassing teaching young adults to sail both the barge and a variety of dinghies in Walton backwaters and the river Ore.  This also included driving and operating the safety boat, for which he was locally trained.

With changeable weather toward the end of the month, the barge finished at Basin reach in Maldon in time to return to Gravesend in the beginning of September.

July 2014: Update

This month Tom has been based on barges Reminder and Cambria.  He has sailed between Maldon and Gillingham, and to Ipswich, and Brightlingsea, and all of the waters in between.  He has been working hard as a member of the crew to ensure the safe running of the vessel and the comfort of the groups hiring us.

Tom has been building on his knowledge of spritsail barge sailing, and also had the opportunity to sail aboard a gaff rigged Colne smack, learning the idiosyncrasies of these particular vessels.

He has carried out routine maintenance tasks such as painting, plumbing and rigging work, scraping and washing the bottoms of barges and sail dressing.

June 2014: Update

This month, Tom went on rotation for two weeks to our Scottish partner, the Scotttish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther. This enabled him to experience maritime heritage from a museum perspective and he was taught how to 'accession' artefacts, as well as being given access to valuable research resources for my personal project.

He then flew to Devon for a further two week placement with our South-West partner, the Trinity Sailing Foundation, operating out of Brixham.  He was placed as bosun on the sailing trawler Provident and completed a weeks charter with a youth group sailing from Brixham along to Falmouth. During this week he learnt and re-learnt the skills of sailing a gaff rigged vessel.  For the second week he sailed from Falmouth to the Scilly isles with an adult charter, as well as helping the crew with maintenance and rigging tasks, and the day to day running of the ship.

After leaving Trinity Sailing at Falmouth, Tom returned to Essex and his host partner Sea-Change, joining the sailing barge Cambria for a delivery charter back to Kent.  The following week saw Sea-Change take over the SB Reminder for a youth charter.  Sailing from Maldon over the old stamping ground to Creeksea on the Crouch, Brightlingsea and up to Pin Mill and ultimately Ipswich. During this trip, Tom was able to visit the sail loft of James Lawrence in Brightlingsea.

May 2014: Update

The work on SB Reminder’s leeboards continues, with the timbers being shaped and fitted together, sanded and then epoxied to weatherproof them, then the iron work was delivered and had to be ground to shape, drilled for bolts and smoothed for handling; all heavy work.

In between work in the yard, Tom sailed as mate aboard the Reminder twice, learning invaluable lessons about the handling of these large sailing craft.  He also sailed for a week as third hand on a trip for adult dementia sufferers.


April 2014: Update

The first trainee to benefit from the SHTP scheme in the Thames Estuary was Tom Cook.  Tom had previously worked for Topsail Events & Charters Ltd and was experienced at sailing barges at skipper level, however he wanted the opportunity to sail on other traditional vessels and to learn the maintenance and specialist seamanship techniques that this project offered.

Tom had also worked as an able seaman in the Royal Navy and voluntarily on board a gaff ketch.

Tom started his host vessel placement with the Sea-Change Sailing Trust in April 2014 with a programme of maintenance and repair on board sailing barge Xylonite which included spending two days at Pin Mill on the barge blocks scrubbing off and laying on antifoul, and painting round topsides.  He then moved to Maldon to work with the boatbuilders on a set of new leeboards for barge Reminder, part-funded by the PRISM Fund as match-funding for the SHTP project.


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